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3 Ways Accounting Firms Can Address the ‘Me’ Versus ‘We’ Mindset

Jun 22nd 2017
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Regardless of the forces challenging your practice, accounting firms continue to pay a premium to attract and retain talent, and with top talent in such short supply, many companies are worried – and for good reason.  

Don’t think you’re challenged? Well, is your turnover rate making your head spin? Are you witnessing a mass exodus of your more mature, experienced employees? Are IT and compliance pressures stretching your already taut resources?

According to a recent global study from the ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) titled “Evolution of Work 2.0:  The ‘Me’ Versus ‘We’ Mindset,” 56 percent of employees don’t believe in job security. The study also found that 46 percent of employees would consider a job that paid the same or less, and that a 16 percent raise is all the average employee would need to jump ship.

It doesn’t stop there. What’s even more striking is the fact that many employers maintain a skewed perception of where their workforce stands in terms of potentially switching jobs. The study showed that employers think that only 21 percent of employees are passively looking for another position when, in fact, 42 percent of employees are looking for opportunities elsewhere.

These statistics spotlight a growing disconnect between employer perception and employee reality in the workplace, which is contributing to an already startling talent drain. Employees are looking for engagement – opportunities for advancing in their jobs – while employers are focusing on the bigger picture like brand reputation, long-term performance, and the bottom line. We call this employee-employer friction the “me” versus “we” mindset.

So, what does all of this mean for accounting and auditing practices?

For starters, it means employers need to recognize that attracting and retaining talent is getting harder due to an abundance of opportunity for accounting professionals. Accounting and auditing will be among the fastest-growing occupations through 2018, and those professions are expected to continue to grow at a rate of 11 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to the ADP Workforce Vitality Report, job switchers in professional services see an average 6.2 percent increase in wages.

But increasing wages isn’t going to fix everything. The talent gap is widening for a number of reasons, including a higher rate of turnover among millennial employees and the challenges many firms are experiencing coping with sometimes rapidly changing technology and compliance guidelines.

As you might expect, the impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation is a huge concern.  In fact, the AICPA says that 75 percent of today’s CPAs will be retiring in the next 15 years.  

Accounting firms may want to begin to think about the human-centric needs driving some of this change. ADPRI research conducted in 2016 titled “The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workforce” identified those needs as freedom, knowledge, stability, self-management, and meaning.

In the instance of the “freedom” category, the study revealed that 95 percent of employees believe they will be able to work from anywhere in the world. Accommodating that expectation may require companies to investigate cloud-based and mobile solutions that will ease access to CPA processes and tools.

We also found that 98 percent of people said they would use technology to learn and increase their knowledge. Working with a solution provider that helps satisfy this need may increase retention and improve recruitment. This includes potentially helping CPAs with soft skills, such as selling or understanding the impact of generational differences on workplace dynamics.

Employees also are looking for meaning in their work. The ADPRI study found that 89 percent of people will choose to work on projects that are personally meaningful and impact society.  This could be as straight forward as partnering on a community project that illustrates that the firm is focusing on the “we” rather than the “me.”

As you can see, there’s opportunity lurking in these workforce challenges. Attracting and retaining a younger workforce may be the answer to bolstering growing accounting firms. 

But in order to win over this critical group, companies need to take a proactive approach with the active market, as well as the large pool of passive candidates.  Here are the three ways to get started:

1. Attract. The ADPRI Evolution of Work 2.0 study shows that millennials value company culture, career development and diversity, as well as the work itself, work hours and flexible schedules. Companies need to ensure they’re offering advantages to attract candidates, such as a clear path for advancement, a flexible working environment, and work that matches what the employee feels he or she was hired to do.

2. Engage. The ADPRI study, “Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect,” discovered that the top reason employees choose to leave a job is due to a poor relationship with their direct manager.  Company culture is not far behind on the list.  This speaks to the desire of many employees for transparency and authentic connection with others in the workplace.  Employers should foster a sense of purpose through connections with managers and senior executives while also equipping managers with the tools and training they need to properly engage employees.

3. Retain. The top five reasons that attract people to their jobs are the same five reasons they choose to stay. Sixty percent of employees have walked away from a job when they felt the job turned out to be different from what they originally signed up for. This is why it’s vital that companies deliver on the promises they use to attract talent.  Companies must keep their commitments or employees in today’s competitive job market will find another employer who does.


Considering the outlook of the accounting industry, it’s more important than ever to follow this path to improved engagement.  We need to make the right choices about where to focus – on the things that employees say matter most to them.  

It may be a long road ahead for bridging the talent gap, but with these steps, maybe employers can change the “me” versus “we” mindset to one that’s all about “us.”

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By anthonym
Jun 23rd 2017 16:10 EDT

I think we also need to understand that millennials have grown up in a world that lacks any kind of job security that their parents or older generation has had. I think that inherently makes them want to keep their options open and consider moving jobs as a natural part of their career development.

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